Kentucky Fried Racing!
The roar of an engine burning around the track turns you on. You've watched Days of Thunder several hundred times. You spend your Saturdays in John Andretti jammies, waiting for the thrill of Nascar to grace your television screen.
However, the utterance of the word "left" makes you break out in tears. Going around one track, looping and circling endlessly...doesn't that get, well, boring as a video game? You hunger for something different.
The recipe? Start with one part Nascar. Mix in a cup of Arcade stylings with off road tracks. Then, stir in a dash of unwelcome kart racing elements. Deep fry that sucker in animal fat, and lo and behold...Nascar Rumble, EA's answer for your nothing-but-left-turn blues.
For an inexplicable reason, the game has decided to venture into kart racer territory by including several strange, and for the most part useless powerups. Ice that freezes up your steering. Rockets that help you maneuver a little better. And as if to highlight the popularity of Nascar with middle America, there's a tornado attack that sweeps cars into the sky a la Dorothy and Toto. The level of powerups used in a race is adjustable from "None" to "Mayhem"; if you choose the latter, expect a non-stop deluge of tornadoes to head your way.
While the offensive powerups limit the game's ability to focus on pure, unadulterated racing, they add a degree of randomness to the race. But any powerup setting greater than "Some" simply becomes straight up annoying.
The 18 tracks are not very well designed, though there are lots of neat little secrets. Shortcuts are a little too easy to figure out, and at the default 4 laps, they tend to run long.
Rumble pushes challenge after challenge on you. After you zoom through the notably easy Rookie setting, you'll earn Pro and Elite classes to take on. In addition, each class has a "Legend" version that pits you against a classic race car driver. Prizes for winning classes include 3 bonus tracks and extra cars.
Speaking of which, there are a whole lotta' cars in here, sporting what appears to be the current look in the Nascar world. The cars have similar top speeds and slight differences in handling. When a Chicken Truck handles like a revved up racer, you realize that reality isn't the flavor of the day. It would have been extremely helpful if they thought about rating the levels of the different cars.
Most people will just end up choosing their favorite driver or the one with the flashiest logos anyway. At least the cars look sharp, decked out in corporate logos and slogans. Stare at that car's ass too long and you'll start fiending for a bowl of Cheerios or dinner at Red Lobster.
The backgrounds are hardly cutting edge, but Nascar Rumble makes up for its pixilated, generic look with burly speed. Framerates keep pace and suit the changing moods of the game. At best, you'll get a realistic countryside of gravel, rocks, and mountain air. And at worst, you'll get New Orleans, a race track of ugly buildings set against a single color sky.
Replays aren't much better looking than the actual race. And expect that framerate to drop down low when you're racing your buddy. Two players versus mode isn't a strong suit of Nascar Rumble.
What really impresses me about the game is the sound. Crank up that Dolby! You'll hear the cars coming up from behind you, veering left and right. When you enter tunnels, echoes bounce off the walls. Sweeeet. Musically, there's nothing but tired country strums and rockabilly chords. Thankfully, the music doesn't take away from the sound effects. And the announcer, Nascar's Jess Harnell, starts off somewhat unnerving, but I grew to like his mostly witty commentary.
Nascar Rumble is a good game, but not a great one. Better than average, but frankly, Rumble isn't going to set any new benchmarks in the world of video game racing. But if you are a true blue Nascar fan, this will get your engine going.